Modeling Appropriate Behavior

I’m a day camp counselor this week. I have a small group of 5 children. One of my duties is to “model appropriate behavior.” To that end, I like to gently handle critters we find in the field, and observe them carefully. Sometimes I end up learning things I never knew before!

For example, take this Katydid (a.k.a. Long-horned grasshopper).

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-45

(I apologize for the quality fo the pictures, but it’s hard to take your time when five kids are all calling, “Jennifer, Look at this!”)

If you look at that photo above, you will see that this katydid did what all grasshoppers are wont to do. As a defense, he has spit “tobacco juice” on my finger. Apparently when they do this inside the mouth of a would-be predator, the taste causes said creature to spit him out again.

I was quite surprised at what happened next:

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-46

The katydid drank the dark liquid back up again! Perhaps he decided I was not a threat after all and wanted to conserve the dark stuff for a real emergency?

And then, he proceeded to wash up. I wish I had video:

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-47

My finger was as clean as can be when I eventually released him back to the grasses.

Try it! Catch a grasshopper and hold it gently in your fingers. See if it regurgitates, then reingests the juice… Report back here. I’m curious how common a practice this might be…

Better Than A Book…

It has become our tradition at Audubon to hold Day Camp Reunion on Presidents’ Day each winter.  We invite all the kids who attended Summer Camp to return for a day of “camp” in the winter.  I had the 3rd and 4th grade group.


Mostly, they just want to play.  And mostly, I just let them.  It takes so little to amuse them.  A pile of snow in the driveway provides a good half hour of fun.  They call it “Butt Sliding” and “Belly Sliding.”  It doesn’t take much elevation to enjoy the pull of gravity.


Their favorite was frozen water.  A recent thaw which resulted in flooding, followed by some good cold temperatures made for a plethora of skating rinks.


Not all of the rinks were sturdy, and that seemed to delight all the more.


Each time we stopped our hike to play, I scouted around for tracks and signs of wildlife. They especially loved learning about the Subnivean Layer!


Here’s a partial list of tracks we saw:

    Grouse Track

  • rabbit
  • squirrel
  • mouse
  • mole
  • shrew
  • deer
  • fox
  • mink
  • grouse
  • great blue heron
  • crow

At one point when I was showing the differences between a squirrel track, a mouse track and a chipmunk track, one of the boys in my group said, “Jennifer, you’re better than a book.”

How’s that for the ultimate job reference?

For more Day Camp Reunion pictures, click here.


Ryan Exline was killed in an auto accident yesterday.  I can’t even begin to describe how I feel.  Ryan has been a big part of Audubon for a long time…

Ryan - Eagle Keeper

Camp Counselor

Snake, northern water with bloody hand
Herp Nerd

Ryan attended home school programs with his family when he was in high school.  He became our youngest Eaglekeeper before he was technically old enough to perform such duties.  However, because of his maturity and responsibility, the Eagle team had no problem letting him start early.  He was the 2004 recipient of our Audubon scholarship which he used to attend a herpetology camp in Vermont.  When he returned, he was instrumental in setting up some of our herp programs for teens.

Ryan, I cannot even believe you are gone…  You will be missed by all…

Here is the full Obituary from the Warren Times Observer:

RyanRyan Paul Exline, 22, of 4945 Rte 957, Russell, PA, died on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Ryan was born November 26, 1986, in Canton, Ohio, the son of James and Robyn (Hemsley) Samuelson, Russell. Ryan was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Homeschooling program and was a graduate student at Duke University, studying for a Conservation Degree. While at college he worked parttime in the Duke University Lab.

Ryan was a member of the Wiltsie Community Church and was formerly involved with the Busti Church of God youth group. He was a member of the Jamestown Audubon Society and enjoyed wildlife and skiing.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by two sisters, Aubree Rinderle and her husband, Greg, Pittsburgh and Alyssa Samuelson, at home; four brothers, Jarod Samuelson and his wife, Kari, Portland, Ore., Joshua Samuelson and his wife, Christy, Erie, and Jacob and Jonah Samuelson, both at home; maternal grandparents, Bill and Betty Hemsley, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; five nieces, one nephew, and several cousins.

He was preceded in death by paternal grandparents, David and Dorothy Titus; and paternal grandfather, Milton Samuelson.

Friends will be received at the Wiltsie Community Church, 65 Swede Hill Road, Russell, on Saturday, December 20, 2008 for two hours prior to a memorial service to be held there at 4 p.m., with Rev. Todd Venman, pastor, officiating.

Memorial contributions may be made to Wiltsie Community Church Building Fund, 65 Swede Hill Rd., Russell, PA 16345 or Jamestown Audubon Society, 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, NY 14701.

You Still Have Time!

Did you do it yet? You still have time!!! Take a child outside week doesn’t end until September 30th! (Of course, you could take a child outside anytime…)

Click the picture for more information about this cool event.  Take someone outside, then write about your experience.

Don’t know any children?  Then take your inner child outside to play.

Boys will be Boys…

Teen Treks - Group PhotoAt first, I thought I might have to cancel the program.  Only 4 kids signed up.  I sent postcards to past Day Campers who were now old enough.  I called the 4 registered and asked them to invite friends.  Miraculously, the week before the program, the van was full.  Nine boys for Teen Treks.  All boys.  Hmm…

I’m the mother of daughters and a lifetime Girl Scout leader.  I know what to do with girls.  I admit, I was a little nervous when I saw the roster.  I have to say, though, this was a great week and those boys are really great kids.  They were polite, had great senses of humor… and best of all… even though they explored some potentially dangerous places, they used good sense and safety…  at least while I could see them.

Holly and I were group leaders for four days of adventures. We visited:

Griffis Sculpture Park, East Otto NY
How Many Kids will Fit Inside the Statue

Allegheny National Forest (Rimrock and The Bent Run Waterfall Area)
Chaz Derek at Top of the Falls

Erie PA (Asbury Woods, The Tom Ridge Environmental Center, and the Beach)
Jacob Drew Kurt

Arkwright Falls
Alex Drew Jacob Kurt Derek Jeff Chaz

 Thank you, boys, for wonderful adventures.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer as much as I enjoyed this week.

More pictures:

First Day of Camp

I love Day Camp.  Today our group found about a bazillion things.  The five best things were:

  1. The Short-headed Garter Snake.
  2. The Giant Waterbug that was eating a Water Boatman.
  3. The Red fungus with the yellow underside that turned bluish-purple when you poked it.
  4. The mink that ran across the trail ahead of us.
  5. And this amazing Leopard Frog that is missing a front leg:

Leopard Frog

The Best Part of My Job

It’s That Time of Year.  The time when every school group needs a field trip, and every scout troop wants an outing to earn one more badge, and the after school nature programs are in full swing.  It’s hectic.  And it’s my favorite time of year.

Here are some examples of what kids should be doing after school… with or without an organized After School Program!

Carson, Luke, Travis, and Cameron dip for Wood Frog Eggs
Searching for Wood Frog Eggs

Counting Bird Eggs
Counting Bird Eggs

Holding a Baby House Sparrow
Holding Baby Birds  (They’re just House Sparrows!)

My job involves quite a bit of administration.  But at this time of year, I squeeze that in between the school and scout and after school groups.  I love bringing a bunch of kids back to the center covered in mud!